What took place in Kenosha since the night Kyle Rittenhouse decided to carry an AR 15 into a violent street demonstration killing two, and injuring a third, has produced conversations about gun violence, the pitfalls and costs to society of broken families, the legal problems over a too broadly defined self-defense statute, and the requirement of objectivity from judges.
The past months also produced evidence and dialogue about the dual systems of justice we have in this nation. There is no doubt whatsoever that Black citizens are not treated the same as others in high profile and tragic circumstances.
Rittenhouse, the two men he killed and the man he wounded were all white, but the case has been linked from the start to issues of race and the criminal justice system.
Activists have previously pointed to differences in how police handled Rittenhouse’s case and that of Jacob Blake, the Black man who was shot by a white Kenosha police officer in August 2020, sparking protests in the city that became destructive and violent.
Video footage played during the trial showed Rittenhouse running toward police still wearing his rifle, and continuing past the police line at officers’ direction. He turned himself in to police in Antioch, Illinois, early the following day.
In Georgia, the brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery has brought forth another clear example of race motivated murder. It is also a showcase of how the justice system can be used to attempt the thwarting of the correct response to a grievous crime. The trial for the three white men accused of the murder has not been short on evidence proving racism has injected itself into the process.
Brunswick, the location of the trial, has a population that is more than half Black. So, it does need to be asked how but only one member of the jury is Black? The news reports of a truly embarrassing white defense attorney rising to repeatedly complain about Black pastors, including Reverend Jesse Jackson (a man I have deeply respected and supported for election) from sitting in on court proceedings was nothing short of galling.
Arbery’s death and the Rittenhouse case have added to the national conversation about racist vigilantism. Both the Kenosha killer and Travis McMichael, the shooter in Georgia, have claimed they acted in self-defense. The tortured reasoning it takes to bend the mind to attempt acceptance of such lunacy is something that our political system will need to address in various state statutes. Allowing leniency for the killing of people one does not like based on the color of their skin or their perceived role in street protests because of strangled legal contortions must be brought under control.
In the Rittenhouse case as soon as he purported the killings to be self-defense it downgraded other vital aspects of the case, such as how a 17-year-old with a deadly gun roamed the streets during a curfew.
On ABC’s This Week the issue of how the Kenosha trial would have been different had the defendant been Black was explored. Byron Pitts, chief national correspondent made the case for why this issue needs to resonate within our country.
Study after study shows that black men are arrested more often, convicted more often, and sentenced to longer sentences than white men accused of the same crime, and the same is — holds true in discipline in schools, that disparity.
And, Martha, here’s a study, I think, that speaks to this case and the concerns about this case. According to the FBI, a — a fatal shooting where the shooter is white and the victim is black, three times more likely that’s ruled to be justifiable if both parties were white. And so I think for most reasonable people, and most surveys would bear this out, the few reasonable people would believe that if a 17-year-old black boy with an AR-15 showed up in Kenosha, Wisconsin at night, killed two people and injured a third, then that black boy would have been treated the same way by police or by the legal justice system.
It was noted in the conversation that had Rittenhouse been African-American the verdict would not have been the same, as statistical evidence proves Blacks do not prevail in such court cases. And so that is the injustice that people are looking at…..
It does not take any deep searching to recognize why conservatives and racists agree with the idea of taking the law into one’s own hands. That is the way vigilantes maintained control of Blacks in the South for many decades. White power, and how to maintain it is not a new concept. But misusing the state statutes to further those biases and grudges against Blacks is wholly acceptable. When they do succeed it adds further evidence as to why we can legitimately talk about a two-tier justice system.
And so it goes.